The New York Police department has suspended Officer Daniel Pantaleo over his use of an illegal chokehold in the death of Staten Island man Eric Garner.
A judge overseeing Pantaleo’s disciplinary trial recommended the officer’s termination Friday for his actions in Garner’s 2014 death.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemary Maldonado handed down the ruling on Pantaleo’s fate, after which the embattled officer was nixed from the roster, “as is the longstanding practice in these matters when the recommendation is termination,” Deputy Commissioner Phil Walzak told the New York Daily News.
Maldonado’s findings in the case were turned over to Pantaleo’s attorney, as well as the police watchdog agency that acted as the prosecution durings his department trial, which is an administrative action. The officer’s attorney has just about two weeks to respond before the file is handed over to Police Commissioner James O’Neill, who’ll have the final say in whether Pantaleo stays or goes.
O’Neill wasn’t provided a copy of the report, and hasn’t made a decision about whether he’ll follow Maldonado’s recommendation, officials said.
Pantaleo was tried on administrative charges of reckless use of force and strangulation in the July 2014 confrontation that left Garner, 43, dead. The officer was attempting to arrest Garner for selling loose untaxed cigarettes when he placed him in a department-banned chokehold, the Staten Island man repeatedly uttering “I can’t breathe” during the struggle.
The father of six suffered a heart attack in the ambulance and later died. An autopsy by the city’s medical examiner concluded that the department-banned maneuver, along with Garner’s poor health — asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes — contributed to his death.
His final words would become a rallying cry in the fight against police brutality and racial injustice.
Pantaleo was ultimately cleared by a grand jury in Garner’s death, even though it was ruled a homicide. His suspension comes just weeks after the Justice Department also declined to prosecute the officer in the case, a decision that fell one day shy of the fifth anniversary of Garner’s death.
“We’re here with heavy hearts because the DOJ has failed us,” the victim’s mother, Gwen Carr, said in response to the decision, adding: “You think it’s swept under the rug? No! It’s not going to be swept under the rug. Because, I’m out here. You all know my face. You’re going to see it even more now.”
On Friday, the head of the Police Benevolent Association, the city’s largest police union, decried the judge’s recommendation to boot Pantaleo, and warned that O’Neill might “lose his police department” if he went along with it.
In a statement, association President Pat Lynch said that the “horrendous” decision to fire the disgraced officer would “paralyze the NYPD for years to come.”
O’Neill is expected to make a final decision on the punishment later this month.